Borough of Roosevelt Historical Collection

Scope And Content Note

The Borough of Roosevelt Historical Collection consists of approximately 10.7 cubic feet of materials spanning the period from 1933 to 1996. It is an artificial collection brought together by the Roosevelt Oral History Committee, the Jersey Homesteads Historic District Advisory Council and interested Roosevelt residents to document and preserve the history of the borough. Approximately 8.1 cubic feet consists of paper records, including correspondence, minutes, reports, newspaper clippings (photocopied onto acid-free paper), books, articles, broadsides and newsletters, while the remainder of the collection is in a variety of audiovisual formats including reel-to-reel audio tapes, audiocassettes, photographs (some as photocopies), motion picture film and videocassettes.

The collection is arranged in three sub-groups: general reference materials (such as newspaper clippings, published and typescript writings about Roosevelt, broadsides, photographs and general borough publications); records of community organizations (such as the synagogue Congregation Anshei Roosevelt and the Roosevelt Public School); and papers and collections of individuals (such as original settler Boris Drasin, former resident Sol Axelrod and Borough Council member Peter Warren). No official records of the borough are included.

The Borough of Roosevelt Historical Collection documents the early history of the town, particularly relations with the federal government, the failure of the economic cooperatives and the struggle of the community to survive. It also provides detailed documentation of the last twenty years of Roosevelt's history, when material was systematically collected by Peter Warren, elucidating issues such as environmental pollution, taxation, pressure to regionalize the school, development and demographic change. There is less documentation of the 1960s and 1970s, although the records of community organizations and interviews with residents give a sense of a stable community during this time period: a place with an active and involved citizenry, a high level of public debate and a keen awareness of its history.

Series of particular interest in this collection are the BIOGRAPHICAL FILES, which document the many artists, musicians, writers and other prominent individuals who live or have lived in Roosevelt; the NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, which reveal contemporary attitudes towards Jersey Homesteads when it was built in the 1930s, as well as detail its more recent history; and the ROOSEVELT ORAL HISTORY COMMITTEE FILES, which include fifty tapes and transcripts, made by the committee in 1981-1983 (1), as well as interviews with artist Ben Shahn, architect Alfred Kastner and others conducted by photojournalist Edwin Rosskam in the 1960s. Also significant are the additional interviews included in the RICHARD KROEHLING PAPERS CONCERNING THE FILM ROOSEVELT, NEW JERSEY: VISIONS OF UTOPIA which were created in the early 1980s in conjunction with a documentary film about Roosevelt.

Another important series is the BORIS DRASIN PAPERS. Drasin was a leader of the settlers while the community was being built, chairman of the board of directors of the Workers Aim Cooperative Association and a key person in attracting a private business to utilize the factory after the cooperative's failure. His papers include correspondence and documents, some of which are in Yiddish.

Materials Copied from Other Repositories

Included among the materials in the Borough of Roosevelt Historical Collection are reproductions of source materials held by other repositories. The PHOTOGRAPHS series, for example, includes Farm Security Administration images reproduced from the collections of the Library of Congress (in Washington, D.C.), as well as photographic copies of representative application forms filled out by the original Jersey Homesteads settlers reproduced from originals at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (in New York City). In addition, the series ALFRED KASTNER PAPERS consists of copied materials excerpted from the architect's papers at the American Heritage Center (in Laramie, Wyoming). Another series, the SOL AXELROD COLLECTION, includes selected items pertaining to Roosevelt's factory cooperative copied from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union Archives (in New York City) and a translation of the Yiddish diary of settler Jacob Rearson reproduced from the American Jewish Archives (in Cincinnati).

Research Based on the Collection

Several monographs exist which are based in part on materials in the Borough of Roosevelt Historical Collection:

  • Brodkin, Kimberly A., "From the Jersey Homesteads to Roosevelt: Community and Identity in a New Deal Settlement." (Senior Honors Thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1992).
  • Cohen, Jason, "From Utopia to Suburbia: The Architecture and Urban Planning of Roosevelt, N.J." (Henry Rutgers Honors Thesis, Rutgers University, 1994).
  • Shally-Jensen, Michael, "New Deal, New Life: Culture and History of a Jewish Cooperative Colony in New Jersey, 1933-1939." (Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University, 1992).

Related Materials

Materials related to the Borough of Roosevelt can be found in other collections in Special Collections and University Archives. Of greatest relevance are official records, 1934-1993, of the Borough of Roosevelt (MC 1057) which are held on deposit. (These records are described in a separate finding aid.) Also available in Special Collections, in the New Jersey Synagogue Archives Project files, are additional publications from Congregation Anshei Roosevelt. In addition, copies of the Borough Bulletin and other Roosevelt publications, plus publications by Roosevelt authors which have significant New Jersey content, are held in the repository's Sinclair New Jersey Collection.

(1) Several of the oral history interviews were actually transcribed in 1995-1996, using grant funds received from the New Jersey Historical Commission.

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